The state of South Carolina has been ordered to stop making and marketing license plates with the image of a cross and the words "I Believe."
A federal judge issued a temporary ruling during a court hearing Thursday after opponents said the plates violate separation between church and state.
The judge said the case needs to be heard in court. But in the meantime, she said the state Department of Motor Vehicles cannot take anymore orders for the plates.
The license plate was approved by the state legislature in June. It displays a stained glass emblem with a cross and the words "I Believe" across the top part of the plate.
No plates have been sent out to the public, although hundreds have been ordered.
"I am extremely disappointed in the court's ruling, and feel the 'I Believe' license tag is completely constitutional," state Attorney General Henry McMaster said.
"I will strongly urge and recommend that the Department of Motor Vehicles and the Department of Corrections immediately appeal this decision to the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals," he said.
The group known as the Americans United for Separation of Church and State filed a lawsuit earlier this year against the DMV and the prison system, which makes all state license plates. The suit was filed on behalf of some religious leaders and the Hindu American Foundation who claimed their First Amendment rights were infringed by the plates.
American United also argued that state lawmakers voted unanimously for the plates that the group says espouse Christianity, and some said they wouldn't vote for plates for minority faiths.
An attorney for the South Carolina DMV said officials would review the case to decide whether to appeal the judge's ruling. "This is the first step in what likely will be a long-term process," he said.
Source: CBN News, Greenville News, Free Times Weekly